Clinic Stories

Camel Racing

A veterinary school classmate of mine works with racing camels in Dubai. Because they run best with a very light jockey they used young boys, around 10 years old. Not wanting to risk their own, they imported boys from Bangladesh as camel jockeys. This created a couple of problems. Camel racing is dangerous and boys would get injured or killed falling off and getting trampled. Also, the boys quickly outgrew the racing weight and became societal cast offs. Under pressure from the United Nations Sheikh Mohammad, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai, offered $1 million to someone who could develop a mechanical jockey.

One engineer put together a model jockey that held the reins in one hand and moved a crop in his other hand to swat the camel's back leg. The camels were not fooled and would not run. The search continued for a workable robot. Using the mechanical jockey model a second person added a speaker to the jockey that made a noise that sounded somewhat like a goat with laryngitis. Giving the jockey a voice was all it took to get the camels running and the second person received the $1 million prize.

So now camels race on an inner track saddled with a screeching mannequin. On an outer track there are an equal number of Range Rovers with a driver plus a passenger with a joy stick to control the robot.

Understanding camels turned out to be more rewarding than understanding technology.

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